7.16.10 Issue #436 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Making Periodic Hygiene Exams Faster and More Efficient
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

In my last article, we talked about how the doctor may work on maneuvering in order to make periodic exams in hygiene less stressful on everybody. This time we are going to look at what the hygienist may want to do in order to make the exam go faster and be a higher quality exam for the patient.

The hygienist starts preparing for the exam the night before by going through the clinical notes, x-rays, and treatment that is pending on every patient she will be seeing the next day. She will make notes on the patient’s route slip or on a day sheet so she is prepared at the morning meeting to brief the doctor and the entire staff about the needs of each of her patients. The next morning during the meeting, she will go over all of these notes with the entire staff and everybody will look at the schedule to see how the dental team can make it work best for everyone. Sometimes this may even mean bringing a patient in 10 minutes earlier to have another staff member do x-rays or to find a good time for the doctor to break away to do exams in hygiene.

In order to make the doctor’s time more productive in the hygiene room while performing a periodic exam, the patient should already be aware of what “may” be going on in their mouths. This is up to the hygienist to do as soon as possible. Other than updating the health history, the hygienist should be updating the dental history first thing, before the patient even opens their mouth to be examined. The hygienist may want to ask: “What changes or concerns do you have when it comes to your teeth?”  Making sure to keep this an open-ended question is best.

This information should be noted in the chart or in the clinical notes in the computer. When the doctor enters the room, regardless of what stage in the appointment, you will be able to quickly identify the patient’s concerns. If the patient had concerns, the hygienist should address this first, because most people are not interested in what your concerns are until their concerns have been addressed. This is also true when the doctor comes into the room and is doing the periodic exam.

Once the hygienist has looked in the patient’s mouth - after visually looking for suspicious areas and taking any necessary x-rays and/or intra-oral camera pictures - the hygienist should make the patient verbally aware of what may be causing the concern. Whether it is root sensitivity, a cracked tooth, or a bruised periodontal ligament that is possibly causing the concern, make sure the patient is aware.

Another good habit for the hygienist to get into is to have the x-rays and the intra-oral pictures that the doctor needs to see on the screen, as well as the explorer, probe, and mirror in the same place every time for the doctor. When the doctor enters the room and is looking at the notes and patient’s x-rays, this is a good time to brief the doctor on what the hygienist has gone over with the patient. This will be done in front of the patient. The more the patient hears the information, the more it is going to become a true concern of theirs. This is particularly important if the problem is not what the patient’s initial concern was, but something else going on in their mouth. Be careful to go over the patient’s concerns first with the doctor.

If treatment is needed, it should be put into the computer in the treatment plan and the financial coordinator should be made aware that there is treatment in the computer. This way, the financial coordinator may have all of the insurance and co-payments figured out before the patient is even dismissed from the chair. This allows the patient to make a quicker exit and to be well informed of not only their oral needs but what the cost will be to have it done.

These are just a few suggestions that will help with decreasing the stresses that the periodic exam in hygiene causes for the entire office. This is a team effort. The main concern is WOWING the patient and having them feel comfortable in the environment that is created by you and your team, even on a busy day.

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our one-day Hygiene Training Program.

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